For the fourth time in five matches the concession of a goal in the final five minutes saw Hendon drop points as Hartley Wintney capitalised on a late misjudgement by Fred Burbidge to seal all three points and consign Lee Allinson’s side to a third match without a win.
There were two changes from the XI that begun the weekend defeat at Tiverton with Hamza Semakula returning from a ban to replace Jayden Clarke and Bristol Rovers loanee Joe Budd coming in for his first start in place of Kieron Forbes.
On a calm autumn evening in leafy North Hampshire that saw rain steadily increase in intensity throughout the match, the hosts made an excellent start and could have been 3-0 ahead inside the opening 20 minutes.
Josh Webb opened the scoring with a superb curling effort from 20-yards out in the 6th minute and within 60-seconds the Row had the ball in the net for a second time through Mitchell Parker, who appeared to have sprung the Hendon offside trap. Mercifully, for the Greens, a late flag ruled the home number 9 to have been offside and a collective sigh of relief was inhaled.
Jordan Edwards went desperately close to a second for the home side on 11 minutes as he legitimately did manage to beat the offside trap, his confident effort beat Fred Burbidge all ends up and was extremely unfortunate to see the ball rattle off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.
It took 25 minutes for Hendon to create their first effort of note and it came about thanks to a sublime touch and turn from Liam Brooks that created space for him to fire a powerful low strike goalward that brought a magnificent save at full stretch from Tom Williams in the Row goal to turn the ball wide of the post.
A minute later Burbidge made an equally brilliant save from a vicious Matt Drage volley after a poor defensive header from a corner kick, the ball looked destined for the top corner before the Hendon goalkeeper flung himself full length and high to his left to push the ball away for another corner kick.
Every time the home side delivered a set piece into the Hendon penalty area the collective blood pressure of the visiting side rose significantly as they struggled to deal with the hosts’ height. One such delivery caused the ball to marinade in the Hendon 6 yard box with both post and crossbar clattered in amongst the melee.
Finally, the Greens began to exert some level of control on proceedings and with Budd increasingly assured and influential in the middle of the park played some neat football. Joe White and Brooks, however, got no change from the well organised home back-four.
The second period was much less open than the first had been. Brooks appeared to have been released clear on goal in the 52nd minute however Jacques Kpohomouh made a splendid covering challenge, appearing from nowhere to time his tackle to perfection.
The equaliser came on 74 minutes and was a superbly worked goal. Tommy Brewer spread the play wide to the right flank for Shaun Lucien who, this time, got the better of his marker, Leo Hamblin. His cross into the box was perfect for the arriving White to glance a header beyond Williams and into the back of the net for his second goal in consecutive matches.
In the final fifteen minutes it looked as though Hendon would be the more likely scorers of any winning goal as they pressed, the home side now defending up the significant slope still provided a threat on the break, though.
With three minutes remaining, as happened at Walton and Swindon, and at the weekend against Tiverton, Lee Allinson’s side were hit by a late sucker-punch. A long clearance forward looked comfortable for Burbidge to deal with, however as the ball held up slightly rather than putting his foot through the ball and launching it into orbit, he waited for it to roll into his penalty area to pick up.
As he bent down, Parker showed the benefit of chasing lost causes, as he got to the ball a split second before the goalkeeper was able to gather it into his possession, knocked it beyond him and tapped into an empty net to provoke scenes of jubilation amongst the home fans.
The final few minutes passed without anxiety for the home side as they held on comfortably to secure three points that leaves them just a point off of Hendon in the table.